Friday, December 18, 2009

Coffee, Cookies, and Conversation

My goal after the new year is to begin a conversation that starts with a cup of coffee and some cookies. I have often held optional training sessions that look familar-- a small group of teachers in my lab, sitting at a computer, looking at the projector, maybe leaving with a new idea from what I had to offer.  But lately, I have been feeling like there is a need for something more.  Something more meaningful and more regular and when you add coffee and cookies to the mix, so much more comfortable!

My thought is to start a learning series that is established through educational professionals in the building sharing conversations.  It will not be a vent session or a formal training session.  I envision it more like a coffee house (minus the trendy couches and jazz music... well, we may be able to do something about the music...).  I would like to see us sharing with each other about what has worked and what has not worked in our classrooms.  I would like to share great technology ideas (minus the "training" feel) and other effective classroom strategies (such as Kagan, etc.) so that we can begin to grow together effectively as a building and become better educators.

I feel something like this could complement the PLC process that is in its early stages quite nicely.  Through the conversations had in this learning series, I can see the beginnings of the conversations that would occur in our PLCs. It will be interesting to see if this informal environment of teachers gathering to share best practices and enjoying professional conversations would generate more interest than any of my former optional training sessions. 

I'm hoping to get this off of the ground in January!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Introducing the Tech Center Technology Wiki!

Yesterday the Tech Center Technology wiki that I mentioned earlier made its debut at the Tech Center. It will always be a work in progress, but it has enough information to be useful to any technical and career education teacher. Check it out and forward it along to those who may find it useful. My hope is that one day it becomes a collaborative effort from many different schools, so we can continue learning from each other and exploring new worlds!

Tech Center Technology Wiki

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology Wiki

I am in the process of creating a wiki that will house information about technology tools and how they can be used at not only the Tech Center, but also any technical school. I began the school year by sending out a tool of the week to my teachers via email, but I wanted a way to showcase several tools in one place, so teachers could browse and find ideas that would pertain to where they were at that point in time. Also, emails get deleted, ignored, or lost, so I thought this would be a great way to present the information permanently! In the wiki, I give specific ideas for each program area to hopefully get thinking going for how a tool can be used. I know I didn't see how technology tools could be used here initially, so by providing concrete ideas, I hope to stimulate creativity. My longterm goal is for this to be a tool for my teachers and any career and technical education teachers to use as a resource. It's only in the beginning stages now, but I am very hopeful that it will be a useful tool in helping me integrate technology. I also see that it could be a collaborative effort across the building and across different schools. I would like other schools and educators to be contributors by reflecting on what has worked, what needed tweaked, and suggesting new tools and ideas.

I will post the link soon, so be on the lookout!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I first heard about Glogster last year, and I have been looking forward to getting a class to try it out. I presented student samples at our professional development session in August, and I finally was able to design a project for our Early Childhood students. The longterm goal of this project is that it will be accessible by the preschool parents once we get our preschool wiki up and running. It turned out the be a great experience for the students as well as the teachers, who are now really excited at witnessing the power of technology like this in the hands of their students.

Glogster is a free, web-based program that is used to create "glogs" or the equivalent of a digital poster. This innovative tool can contain video, sound, pictures, and text. It allows the students to be creative with backgrounds, colors, fonts, and graphics, and it can be about any topic, so it is perfect for a diverse school like the Tech Center! Plus, there is now an educational side, so a teacher can create a main account and student accounts that are all visible from the teacher login. And most importantly, it is easy to manage and safe to use.

The Early Childhood students just finished learning about two important play centers: sensory and block building, and rather than testing them through a traditional assessment, we decided to create a peformance-based assessment using Glogster. The students worked in pairs to choose their topic and complete their final products that consisted of:
  1. One video, created using the Flip camera, explaining and demonstrating a developmentally appropriate practice in either block building or sensory play. The audience was the parents of our preschool children. The topic was how they could use block or sensory activities at home with their child to promote cognitive, social-emotional, and physical growth. This video was no longer than one minute in length.

  2. Three pictures from the picture bank provided of preschoolers and student teachers in sensory and block buildling play activities. The pictures were to have a caption that described what was happening in the picture, how the activity was developmentally appropriate, and how the activity fostered cognitive, physical and social-emotional development and growth.

  3. Recordings of the caption for each picture using

  4. A list of specific ideas for block building or sensory play at home.
We gave the students the freedom to pace themselves and work on the project in any order they wanted. The level of learning, engagement, and creativity was amazing because the students knew they had a real audience, the preschool parents, and because they were put in charge of the learning process. The project covered many 21st century skills, and the students stayed focused and engaged for the entire 2.5 hour classtime. The best part is that a project like this can be transferred to any classroom in any school.
Take a look at few examples:
Happy Glogging!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Timeliner XE Updated

Today was a great day at the Tech Center! Early Childhood students really produced stellar work on their timelines for child development. The students chose a “birthday” for a child in the year 2004 and then charted that child's developmental milestones through age 6. They added categories to help distinguish between the types of development. After they were finished, they printed them out and mounted them on construction paper, so they can be displayed and used as review tools.
I am going to try to be more specific with my teachers and with my posts when it comes to using this in a technical school classroom. I send an email each week with a tool or strategy, and I thought that maybe giving specific examples would help them visualize using it in their classroom. So here it goes!

Here’s what was great about this assignment:

  1. The students had to think critically to determine at what date the child would be experiencing a specific developmental milestone.
  2. The students had to categorize the types of milestones.
  3. The students are able to visually understand how a child grows and develops—through the timeline and through adding images.
  4. It only took about 1 hour!

Here’s how I think other programs here at the Tech Center can easily use this powerful program:

  1. Nursing students can track a disease’s progression or the steps in patient care procedures.
  2. Culinary students can map out the steps in a difficult recipe or create a timeline for a catering event to stay organized.
  3. Construction, Welding, and HVAC students can create a sequence for any steps in building/fixing anything.
  4. Public Safety students can create the timeline of a crime scene or an accident to understand the progression of events, or they can create a sequence for procedure of a traffic stop.
  5. Landscaping/Turf students can create a timeline of plants that grow best during each month or can create a sequence for growing/caring for plants or creating landscape designs.
  6. Auto Body students can create a timeline or a sequence for the steps in repairing damage.
  7. Auto Service and Outdoor Power Equipment students can create a sequence for any repair work done in the shop.
  8. Legal/Medical students can create timelines and sequences for any office procedures.
  9. Electronics students can create sequences for building circuits or any other item.
  10. Cosmetology students can create a timeline for managing clients effectively to get their procedure done in the allotted amount of time or can create a sequence for any procedure.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Timeliner XE

I remember when I first came to the Tech Center three years ago. Most people didn't understand what technology could really be used at a technical school. When I would have computers reimaged, the technicians would almost automatically tell me that I didn't need any special instructional software pushed because that's what they were used to. Sadly, I started to agree with everyone; I couldn't see past those thoughts to envision what could really be done.

One program that I was pretty sure we would never use here is Timeliner XE. I couldn't fathom what on earth a technical school could use a timeliner program for. Luckily, I have been able to grow past those blind viewpoints to see the possibilities of the program. What is nice about Timeliner is the ability to create not only chronological timelines, but also sequences that can be enhanced with images and videos. Since our students learn process after process for tasks in their trades and programs, Timeliner has become a number one option to create sequences to learn and review the steps they need know. Even the timeline side of the program is going to be put to use in Early Childhood as they study child growth and development. Dental Assisting has already worked on arranging images and labeling the steps in amalgams with pictures that they took using their intraoral camera. See the image above for a sample of their work!
After these successes, I'm sure that many other instructors will be interested in trying this out in their classroom. I can see a use for it in Culinary Arts for steps in any task in the kitchen and bake shop. The trades classrooms could use it for reviewing steps in any of the processes that they put to use in building our Foundation House. The Practical Nursing students could use both sides of the program-- to create timelines for diseases/illnesses and sequences for caring for patients. Landscape Design could use it for the sequence and timeline for plant growth. And so much more, all across the building!

I spent quite a bit of time over the previous three school years feeling frustrated because I just was not sure what I could do here to help the teachers. For what reason, I won't question, but the veil has been lifted. I see endless possibilities for our teachers to improve and enhance instruction with technology that is available in our division. It is my hope that we can become pioneers in someway. I have to believe there are other technical schools out there who have been told or just believe there isn't a place for instructional technology in their curricula. It is my hope to take our division's newly implemented plan for PLCs in each building and expand ours to include teachers from other technical schools. There is so much out there that we can learn from each other, and it will all benefit the students!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Starting Fresh

After a great summer break, Vo-Tech 2.0 is roaring and already running! Our teachers come back at the beginning of August, which is different from the regular schools' teachers, which is a great way for me to find substantial time to plan with them before the school year starts. There are many great things in store for our building this year, and I am excited about implementing them. In order to achieve the goals I have in mind, I am making them public. Hold me accountable, people!

  1. Create a school technology wiki to be used to collaborate across the building so teachers can see how technology is being used and how it can be used in their classrooms. FYI: the PBWorks Summer Camp is highly beneficial. Definitely recommended!
  2. Meet with each program each quarter to plan for ways to use technology in their learning plans.
  3. Expand online portfolio project to include more programs and possibly two different platforms to allow for student choice.
  4. Promote Notebook 10 software, Smartboards, and Airliners.
  5. Train teachers on Google SketchUp as an option for creating visual plans for projects.
  6. Implement the Preschool Wiki project with ECE.
  7. Hold optional training sessions that correlate with the Technology Tool of the Week.

Monday, June 8, 2009

PBworks Summer Camp

I found out about this great and free opportunity on Free Technology for Teachers last week. Feeling a great need for some motivation, I quickly decided to give it a go. Not only is it free, but after successfully completing the four week course, you are eligible to be a PB Wiki Certified Educator, and you earn a free wiki. Not a bad deal for a great experience interacting with other like-minded educators. I think it will be interesting to learn more about how to effectively use a wiki in general and in a classroom with students. As you can see from my last post, which shamefully was in March, we experimented with a wiki and Jing screencasts, and it was a great experience, but I know we only scratched the surface of the powerful ways a wiki can be used.

My first thoughts on looking at the camp syllabus and the assignment of creating my on wiki is that I would like to create a space that is easily accessible and easily editable for the staff in my building that will house ways we are learning to integrate technology. I hope it will help to create a dialogue and a community that seems to be lacking at times. My thoughts on this emerging technology use in Vo-Tech 2.0 is that I need to create a community of learners within the building that see each other as co-teachers even if we have so many seemingly disjointed subject areas. I hope this helps bridge the gap. And as a bonus, I hope that it will entice some to give it a try in their classroom, too. But as I am learning, I think change in this building will be slow, and that's okay because we will start where it is safe and move out from there.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Jing and Wikispaces

The students in our Legal Studies Administration class and our Medical Studies Administration class have to take the Microsoft Office Specialist Certification test for Word. The teacher came to me and asked if I had any thoughts for how she could be a little more creative and use technology to get the students practicing the objectives and helping each other prepare for the test. After being thrilled about the invitation to plan and help, I went through many different ideas in my head that included the Flip camera she has recently purchased and her new Smartboard. I knew what I wanted to do was have the students create videos that we could put on a wiki that would be their review tool.

We finally decided on Jing, which is created by TechSmith, and is a free download for both Windows and Mac. Jing is a very simple to use tool that can create screenshots or screencasts and can then be saved as a Flash movie and emailed or uploaded.

Here was our basic plan:
  1. Students worked in groups of two and were assigned an objective from the MOS Word Certification test.
  2. Students researched and learned how to complete the objective.
  3. Students wrote a step-by-step script that they used to record their screencast.
  4. Students used Jing to record their screencasts using the scripts.
  5. Students chose best version of screencast and uploaded to a page on a class wiki that contains the video and the script.
We found the students were actively engaged in every part of the process. Because they knew that their classmates from both classes would be reviewing the videos, they made sure their videos were top quality. Hopefully we will see an increase in the MOS pass rate as they use this as a study tool.

I am happy with the results of this project, especially because over the past two years, I really was not sure I would figure out a way to help in this classroom. After this experience, I see many, many possibilities. We already have another project that will begin in the next month that includes Mixbook. Vo-Tech 2.0 is on its way!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Remembering Joshua

I have been contemplating posting this for about a week, and my hesitancy is that it is not really a new tool or concept that every school can benefit from. But the more I think about it, and the more I am impacted by it, I feel compelled to share.

Recently, a tragedy struck a family in our Virginia Beach community. A story hit the news about a five year old boy who was murdered by his father. The mother was also wounded. At first this was just another sad story on the news, something that I try to avoid; however, my fiance realized that he knew this family. He is actually very close friends with the little boy's uncle and aunt and their family. The event then took on a new meaning for me; I couldn't stay detached because I wasn't anymore. I attended the little boy's funeral, and since then, my life has not been the same. At the service, his short life crossed a screen image by image, and I struggled with questions of faith and fate and God and other things that many people probably explore when this kind of thing happens. I empathized with the family and the poor mother. I cried and ached to hold my own small children close. Forever.

Since then, I have been preoccupied by this tragedy, and in a way, I am grateful because I have had a renewed sense of life. I have stopped rushing and fretting quite so much. I have taken each day I have had with my own two boys during the past week and lived it fully. I have laughed more willingly at their orneriness and spoken more tenderly when frustrated. So in that way, little Joshua does live on, as they expressed hopefully during the funeral. He will continue teaching me to cherish the moments I have with my children, which is something we often forget in the harried and hurried evenings and days.

And it has led me to question why we, as educators, do what we do. Why there are so many of us out there who are passionate about making the classroom something more meaningful and purposeful for our students. We have realized that we only have a limited amount of time with them; every second is valuable and something to cherish, and they deserve all we can give. As Joshua helps me to remember that with my own children, I hope I can also be helped to remember that when working with my teachers and our students.

So maybe this post does have something to do with tools we can use in our schools and classrooms: connecting, being present with our students, valuing each teachable moment with them, and knowing that we impact their lives, whether short or long.

I ask that you take a moment to visit the site Remembering Joshua. I hope that you continue to be inspired to live life fully and to always find joy and meaning, both in and out of your classroom. If you feel compelled to donate to the family, there is a link. The mother has substantial recovering to do, and she is probably going to be without health insurance by the end of this month. If prayer and positive support is what you can offer, please do that as well.

Please forward this post to as many as you can so that we can make a difference to this family who is enduring such a great loss.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The Internet security guy (he's great!) and I worked pretty diligently to get this app working through our filter and firewall. Now that it is accessible to both teachers and students, I am excited to start trying it out in the classroom! Vocaroo is a simple, yet powerful recording tool that is perfect for education because it does NOT require a login. You simply record and either email or embed the clip. It's as easy as that! While it is not as complex as tools such as Audacity, it will work in a pinch and when something simple is desired. You can share your Vocaroo in a few ways: by emailing the link, by embedding, or by downloading the file, but you need Quicktime 7 Pro to save the file.

Tech Tips

  1. The teacher can record and email/post directions or explanations for projects and assignments.
  2. The teacher can use this as a tool to communicate with students when there is a substitute.
  3. The students can create clips/mini podcasts that are posted to a class wiki/blog.

My Vocaroo:

Monday, February 16, 2009


I am constantly on the lookout for easy to use web apps that I can share with my teachers. I can easily get overly-excited and overwhelm teachers sometimes-- see some of the prior portfolio posts. Today I was lucky enough to come across another fabulous tool that would be easy to use here at V0-Tech 2.0. Mixbook is a great application that can be used to create rich digital stories, using simple text and images. This is perfect for the classroom because you can invite others to collaborate on a single book. Publishing is available in two ways: digitally and by purchasing a bound book.
An easy-to-use and diverse tool such as Mixbook fits well in any school, but it is especially perfect at a technical school. Since we usually fall out of the realm of some of the software apps that are in place at the traditional high schools, I have found it important to find apps that are broad enough to be useful in any of my teachers' classrooms. Mixbook fits the bill, and as an added bonus it is so simple to use, that it won't scare my teachers away.

Tech Tips for today:

Mixbook is a versatile app. Here are some ideas for any classroom, and especially those at Vo-Tech 2.0.
  1. Create a how-to book using pictures the students take to demonstrate knowledge of a process or skill.
  2. Research a relevant topic/item/theory.
  3. Create a tips list that could be used to help students who are struggling with a topic or skill.
  4. The possibilities are endless!

And as a former English teacher, I can also see the very creative uses of this site. Creating character's family photo albums, scrapbooks from events in the story, plot analysis... Couldn't help myself there!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Online Flash Card Sites and Vo-Tech 2.0

I work in a technical and career school-- Vo-Tech 2.0, as I call it because much has been done around my school system to update and improve the old-school Vo-Tech that we are used to. We still have the traditional Vo-Tech style courses, but we also have Dental Assisting and Culinary Arts and Early Childhood Education, amongst others. Many of the students in these courses are college-bound and are looking for a way to enhance their skills and learn more about their desired profession. Through such diverse programs of study, we are able to provide many many different kinds of students a valuable and lifelong skill. Our teachers are equally diverse: we have those who were traditionally educated as teachers-- that is all they have done and know. And we also have those who have transitioned into the education world after they have spent time refining their skills in their area of expertise.

My challenge when I arrived at this school as the Instructional Technology go-to person was three-fold:
  1. Many people didn't believe I was needed here because it is a technical school. They didn't understand how technology would be useful here.

  2. Many of the teachers in the building, the majority, were very, very leery of technology. They had learned what they needed to pass the technology standards test and take attendance, but that was where it ended.

  3. Finally, I wasn't sure what I would be able to do here because I didn't know much about their content. In my previous middle school, I knew enough about the core subjects, that I could converse with the teachers in a planning session and get the wheels moving.

What I have learned is that technology is just as important in Vo-Tech 2.0 world as it is in a traditional high school. The kids here learn theory that is just as rigorous as any Algebra or English class, and they need these tools. I have also learned that the teachers also need these tools in their classrooms, and I can provide those tools even though I may not be an expert in their content. They have the same struggles as any teacher with kids who desire and crave engagement.

So my method has been to ease them in. We spent time learning technical skills involved with programs like Excel and Outlook. I am spending time this year introducing easy options for integrating technology. We have looked at Flip Video Cameras, and most recently, I introduced two online flash card sites. They have generated some interest, and I have already had one teacher try it! I just have to constantly remind myself of baby steps. It will all come together with baby steps!

Tech Tips for today:


In Quizlet, the teacher creates the content and the students then have several ways to review the information through practicing, games, and quizzes. The sets that the teacher creates can be shared with the students through a link. As an extension, the teacher can create a group for the class, and the students create accounts and join the group. Throughout the year, sets that are added to the group are accessible to the students whenever they login. The students also have the ability to add sets to the group as well.


Cramberry works in the same way, but it has one nice extension. Cramberry will remember the topics that were answered incorrectly, and it will focus on those topics as a way to help the learner.

This is a perfect tool for any teacher, but especially for teachers in my school because the students often have to learn vocabulary quickly and correctly in order to perform the task or skill it relates to.

Just a note-- if you know of an ITRT or similar person at the Vo-Tech style school in your area, send them my way. I am on Twitter: @hlvanrip


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How Products Are Made

I came across a great site today that will be a fabulous resource here at a technical school. How Products Are Made contains historical information and manufacturing details for just about every product imaginable. I set out to search for some of the items my teachers may be interested in researching: hair dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators, dentures, engines, etc. Every term had a page with detailed information.

Tech Tips:
  1. This would be a great way to introduce a new skill or tool to the students by engaging them with the history and details of the item itself.

  2. This would be a great starting point for students to use in a research project on an item or unit in the curriculum.

Portfolio Project- Update #4

I was beginning to lose hope in terms of my portfolio project, but suddenly everything brightened up a bit. We figured out a way to have the students use Google Sites for the portfolio by making their sites private and only allowing specific users to see and/or collaborate by invitation. This will allow the teachers and myself access, but not the general public. Once the students graduate, they can choose to make their site public or to keep it private.

We have also double checked with the student logins to ensure that we will not run up against any filtering issues when the students start to make and maintain their sites. So far, no problems!

We had a great planning session two weeks ago where we came up with specifics for portfolio contents and a timeline and general idea of a due date. I plan to focus on this project with these two classes, and then next year, I can roll it out to more.